As General James Oglethorpe explored this area along the Medway River in 1734, he marveled at its potential for a seaport city. Captain Mark Carr was a member of Oglethorpe's regiment and an early settler in this area of Georgia. As trade increased in early colonial Georgia, Captain Carr petitioned for a land grant to bring Oglethorpe's idea into reality. He was allotted 500 acres from the King of England. Using this land, Carr established the town of Sunbury in 1758. Carr was an early developer. He laid out lots and public squares here on the Medway River in St. John's Parish. He hoped to sell these lots for a profit.
The Growth of a Town
Sunbury started as a seaport for the settlement of Medway, which lay 10 miles inland, and for surrounding farms and plantations in the parish. As migration to the town increased, Sunbury's port rivaled Savannah's trade market and became the second - largest shipping port in colonial Georgia. In fact, Sunbury was the second - largest town in Georgia just before the Revolution, with a population of approximately 1,000.
The Beginning of the End
The Revolutionary War ruined the prosperous town of Sunbury. By 1778, the British occupied much of coastal Georgia, including Savannah, but not Sunbury. The colonial forces fought off a British attack by sea in November 1778, using cannon fire on the British ships. A second British fleet attack on Sunbury was successful. The British occupied the town for three years and left it in shambles. Sunbury never recovered from the effects of war. Sunbury, like other Southern cities and towns, saw many deaths from Yellow Fever in 1700s, and suffered more troubles when two hurricanes struck in 1804 and 1824. By the middle of the 1800s, Sunbury had become nearly a ghost town.